Matching Pair 1.1

Matching Pair is an iOS game for all ages.  The objective is to find all matching pairs from a set of playing cards that has been randomly shuffled.  A matching pair consist of two cards that have the same color and rank.  For example, the King of Heart and the King of Diamond are a matching pair, since they are both red cards and they are both Kings.

Version 1.1 will soon be available for download on Apple’s iTunes App Store.  Download version 1.0 now to get version 1.1 as a free upgrade.

Matching Pair 1.1 includes critical bug fixes, usability enhancements and social network integration. Specifically this release:

  • Fixed bugs that periodically caused the application to crash when the user is logged in to Game Center.
  • Integrated with Facebook to allow the user to share game results with friends on Facebook.
  • Added Settings screen to allow the user to change game settings, reset Game Center Achievements and login/logout from Facebook.
  • Improved playability by automatically closing one of the face-up cards (new setting), when the user selects another card with 2 cards already opened.
  • Introduced different levels of gameplay by adding a new ‘Match Color Pair’ setting that allows the user to specify whether a matching pair must have the same color.
  • Added 2 additional Leaderboard categories for games played with the ‘Match Color Pair’ setting turned OFF.

For more information, check out the Matching Pair Product Page.

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Download Pro Calculator 1.2

The Download Pro Calculator is an iPhone application designed for software professionals and power users looking to estimate the transfer time and the storage media required for large file downloads or transfers.

Version 1.2 is now available for download on Apple’s iTunes App Store.

This release includes the following enhancements and bug fixes:
  • Fixed the vertical scrolling bug for the Connection Speed and Storage Media list.
  • Fixed screen layout bug (on iPad running  iOS 5) when the iAd banner is hidden.
  • Extended maximum value to 1024 for new Connection Speed and Storage Media.
  • Updated the default Connection Speed and Storage Media list for new installations.
  • Added cross promotion screen on startup to promote other applications.
  • Conducted full regression testing on iOS 5 devices.

For more information, check out the Download Pro Calculator product page.

First Test Drive of HDR Photos in iPhone 4

With the release of iOS 4.1, Apple added high dynamic range support (HDR photos) to the built-in camera on the iPhone.  So what is HDR?  In Steve Jobs’ own words, “when you take a photo (with HDR turned on), it actually takes 3 photos in rapid succession.  It takes 1 normal exposure what it thinks is the appropriate exposure, 1 that’s under exposed, and 1 that’s over exposed.  And it combines these 3 photos with some pretty sophisticated algorithm to produce a HDR photo”.  The photos below are examples from Apple’s 9/1 product launch that showcases the potential of HDR:

Over the weekend, I took my family to a local amusement park and decided to take some pictures with HDR enabled.  Unfortunately, I was unable to match the quality of Apple’s photos via HDR.  I took over 20 pictures with HDR enabled.  In reviewing the results in iPhoto, I’m only able to identify a couple instances where HDR provided enhancement over the normal exposure.  Below are some side-by-side comparisons, with the normal photo on the left (1st) and the HDR photo on the right (2nd).

In the 1st set of photos, the improvement is very subtle in the HDR version.  It’s barely noticeable, the removal of shadows from the foreground and the over exposure correction of the white color on the side of the cart. Upon closer inspection (click to view in full size), you will find a slight shadow casted around the human subjects in the HDR photo, either because I moved the camera or the subjects moved between frames.

In the 2nd set of photos, the improvement is more noticeable in the HDR version.  The over exposed background gets corrected in the yellow booth in the upper left corner and the trees in the upper right corner.  But the subject in the foreground remains dark.  Upon closer inspection, you will find the background human subjects to be a bit distorted in the HDR photo, most likely because they moved between frames.

The first two sets of photo were taken where the subject is relatively still.  I took many pictures where the subject was in full motion, and understandably those turned out poorly in HDR:

This was my first test drive of HDR in iOS 4.  Since it didn’t exact come with an user manual, I’m learning from my own experience.  I could simply enble HDR for all photos, but if the yield of good HDR photos from my weekend experience is an indication of the expected norm, I will waste a lot of time deleting HDR photos from my album.

From this experience, I have devised some simple rules on when to use and when not to use HDR:

  • Don’t use HDR to take pictures that involve any form of motion
  • Use HDR when taking landscape pictures with or without human subjects
  • Use HDR when taking pictures with drastic lighting variation between foreground and background

Hopefully by following my own guidance, I will be able to take better pictures by utilizing HDR under selective conditions.

Note:  Th Apple photos were borrowed from the Sep 1st Apple product launch.  You will find the HDR introduction around the 7 minute mark in this video.

My 1st iPhone App – DL Pro Calc

My first iPhone application, the Download Pro Calculator, was released on iTunes and the iPhone App Store today.  I developed it with the software professionals and download power users in mind, but implemented a calculator design that I believe is intuitive to all users.  If you own an iPhone, iPod Touch or an iPad, you will want to download this app now.  Besides, this inaugural release is FREE.  It will come in handy whenever you need to estimate the download time and/or the storage media (CDs, DVDs, etc) required for any given download, especially large software or movie files.

If you do download this app and find it useful, I would appreciate your customer rating and review on iTunes.  I decided to write this iPhone app as a way of enriching my professional skills.  Since making a career path change 5 years, I have been itching to get back into application development.  As a former Java developer, I have had to learn Object-C and the Cocoa Framework which was different; not to my liking.  But I must say, it’s quite exciting to be able to develop an application that has the potential to serve so many iPhone users.  Apple’s development tools and developer program definitely made it much easier.

In the meantime, I’m gearing up to start on my second iPhone project, in my spare time of course.  I will continue to enhance the Download Pro Calculator base on your feedback, so please email with your request for enhancements, or if you have an idea for my next iPhone project.

Apple’s WWDC 2010 Keynote Address

Apple has posted the WWDC 2010 Keynote Address that was presented by Apple CEO, Steve Jobs earlier this week.  If you are an iPhone user, Apple developer or just a fan of mobile technology like me, you will want to tune in to this 2 hour video.  If you have a broadband connection, watch it in HD (high definition) to fully enjoy some of the iPhone 4 demos.  Steve is very proud of the new Retina display.

The keynote covers key stats from recent iPad launch, an update on the iPhone Apps Store, some really cool iPhone apps, and lastly iPhone 4 as well as the re-branded iOS4 (formerly known as iPhone OS).  Below are highlights (my notes) if you don’t have time to watch the video.

iPad Update

  • 2 Million iPads sold in the first 59 days.  1 sold every 3 seconds
  • 8,500 native apps available with 35 Million downloads already
  • 5 Million books downloaded from the iBooks store in the first 65 days.  22% of all eBook sales (market share)
  • PDFs now viewable in iBook

App Store Update

  • Supports 2 platforms:  HTML 5 and App Store
  • Over 225,000 apps available for download and/or purchase
  • 15,000 apps (new & updates) in 30 languages submitted each week
  • 95% of apps approved within 7 days
  • Top 3 reasons for app rejections:  (1) App doesn’t function as advertised  (2) Use of private APIs and (3) App crashes
  • 5 Billion downloads from App Store so far
  • 70% of apps revenue paid to developers;  $1 Billion paid (WOW!)

Cool / Killer Apps

  • eBay app with 10 Million downloads
  • $600 Million in sales volume during 1st year
  • $1.5 to $2 Billion in sales volume projected for the current year
  • NetFlixs app presented by NetFlix CEO, Reed Hastings
  • iPhone/iPad is the fastest growing platform for NetFlix
  • User get full NetFlix experience as TV and laptops; Movie resumeable from TV to iPhone
  • App price:  FREE
  • Farmville app presented by Zynga CEO, Mark Pincus
  • Farmville has 35 Million active users daily and 70 Million users monthly
  • iPhone enables Farmville users to farm any time and anywhere
  • Demo showcased same or enhanced user experience as desktop version
  • Push notification so you can harvest before your crops wither
  • App price:  TBA
  • Guitar Hero presented by Activision Senior VP, Karthik Bala
  • Same Guitar Hero game but redesigned for the iPhone
  • App price:  $2.99

iPhone Update

  • Nielsen Q1 2010 report, ranks iPhone #2 in US market share at 28% (RIM is #1  at 35%)
  • iPhone #1 in mobile browser usage at 58% per Net Applications (Android is # 2 at 22.7%)
  • iPhone launched in 2007, iPhone 3G in 2008, iPhone 3GS in 2009 (2x speed and video recording) and iPhone 4 in 2010

iPhone 4 Launch

iPhone 4 (running iOS4) has been totally redesigned with over 100 new features.  During the keynote address, Steve Jobs covered the top 9 features including the new killer app, FaceTime video calling.  Below are the top 9 features with links to Apple’s website for more information:

  1. New iPhone design – new glass exterior with stainless steel wrap-around, 24% thinner (thinnest smart phone), front & rear facing camera with LED flash, new antenna system and more.
  2. Retina display – 960 x 640 display (78% of iPad pixels) at 326 pixels per inch greatly enhances picture and text quality.  Exceeds the 300 pixels differentiable by human eyes
  3. A4 Chip – a powerful and energy efficient microprocessor designed by Apple specifically for iPhone 4 and iPad
  4. Gyroscope – coupled with the existing accelerometer greatly enhances the gaming experience and applications that requires precise motion sensing (6-axis) with support from the new CoreMotion APIs.
  5. New camera system – a 5 megapixel camera with 5x digital zoom and LED flash that takes high quality pictures in low light settings and supports HD video recording (720p at 30fps) with tap to focus in both photos and videos.
  6. iPhone OS 4 (iOS 4) – the latest release of the iPhone OS (rebranded iOS4) offers support for multitasking, folders, unified mailbox, email threads, Bing search, and many more new features.  Upgrade is available on June 21 and FREE for iPhone 3GS, 3G and iPod Touch.
  7. iBooks – same iBooks app and eBooks library on the iPad is now available on the iPhone with support for PDFs.  iBook syncs highlights, bookmarks and notes across all iBook supported devices.
  8. iAds – launching on July 1, iAd provides iOS4 app developers with opportunity to make money (60% sharing) from free or low cost apps.  Ad placement is determined by the developer.  User click to open and interact with the ad.  Closing the ad returns user to the current app.  $60M iAd revenue committed for the rest of 2010.
  9. FaceTime video calling – quite possibly the next killer app, FaceTime allows video calling only between two iPhone 4 users with WIFI connections.  Leveraging both the front and rear facing camera, the app provides for an engaging user experience.  Apple plans to release FaceTime as an open standard.  Note, Steve’s demo required the entire audience to get off WIFI, so it does raise concerns that the video may be choppy unless you have a very fast WIFI connection.  3G support in the future.

Lastly, the iPhone 4 will be available in the US on AT&T only on 6/24 with pre-order starting on 6/15.  The 16G model (with AT&T 2 year contract) will sell for $199 while the 32G model will sell for $299.  The existing iPhone 3GS with 8G of storage running iOS4 will sell for $99.

Originally post on

My Corrupt iMovie Project

Last week, I started a new iMovie 09 project to organize and produce a home movie from the videos and the pictures that I took at my Father’s 70th Birthday.  It was the perfect opportunity to get hands-on with iMovie, so I can also evaluate it for my Digital Library Project.  After working on iMovie for about 4 or 5 hours straight, I noticed an odd behavior.  When I played back my nearly complete project, iMovie’s preview screen froze up despite the sound track playing in the background.  The preview screen was working until the last set of edits.  Undoing the edits didn’t work.  I tried rebooting my Mac and restarting iMovie, but the problem persisted.  Upon opening another iMovie project, I realized the problem was affecting all iMovie projects.  At first, I thought I had accidentally toggled on an application level configuration.  After searching to no avail, I decided it was time to call Apple.

Although I’m never thrilled by the need (since something really bad happened) to call Apple’s technical support, I have always found the experience to be pleasant and educational.  After submitting a support request online,  I received a callback and was connected to an Apple Expert (his name was Frank) within minutes.  He walked me through a number of steps to isolate the root cause.  Along the way, we removed a number of files from the “Home/Library/Preferences” and “Home/Library/Caches” directory.  Finally, we determined that my latest iMovie project was corrupt.  Upon removing it from the “Home/Movies/iMovie Projects” folder, iMovie’s preview screen started to work again.  Unfortunately, I lost 5 hours worth of editing.  Frank mentioned that Apple cannot assist in the recovery of a corrupt iMovie project.  They recommend running Time Machine, so it’s possible to retrieve prior edits in case this happens again.

A couple days later, I started a new iMovie project and was successful in producing a home movie of my Father’s 70th Birthday.  Aside from the corrupt project setbacks, I have found iMovie to be a proficient tool for achieving common video editing tasks.  I intend to use iMovie for my future home video productions.  In applying the learning from this incident, I have setup Time Machine to backup my Mac regularly (hourly, daily, etc.).  While working on an iMovie project or anything that’s labor intensive, I now also trigger Time Machine manually whenever I reach a significant milestone so an extra backup is captured.   Finally, this experience has reaffirmed my recognition and intention to setup a comprehensive solution for backing up and archiving my digital library.  Stay tuned for a future blog on that topic.

For those of you, looking for the gory details on the steps that we went through to identify the root cause, here you go.  Although I recommend calling Apple first with your issues, as they definitely know their own products well.

  1. Ran Software Updates from System Preferences to make sure the Mac has the latest software updates and bug fixes.
  2. Removed the following application preferences file from “Home/Library/Preferences” and restarted iMovie.  (that didn’t work for me)
  3. Created a Guest account on the Mac and created a new iMovie project using the new account.  Since the iMovie preview screen worked just fine on another account, we ruled out binary corruption and the need to re-install iMovie.
  4. Returned to my account, removed the “Home/Library/Caches” folder and restarted iMovie.  The iMovie preview screen worked for other projects.  Upon opening my latest project, it froze again.  This suggested that my iMovie project was the culprit.
  5. Removed the corrupt iMovie project file from the “Home/Movies/iMovie Projects” folder and restarted iMovie.  It worked!

I’m sure there’s a bug in iMovie that led to the corruption of my iMovie project.  Until Apple fixes the bug, I at least have a known work-around for recovering from future incidents.  My fingers are crossed that it doesn’t happen again.

Kicking Off My Digital Library Project

I thought that technology is suppose to make life easier?  I won’t deny that the iPhone (my latest toy) has provided me with conveniences that a couple years ago would have required that I carry along a mobile phone, digital camera, MP3 player, and laptop computer.  While I love my iPhone, I still use my MacBook Pro, iPod Nano, Canon HD camcorder, and Canon DSLR regularly, depending on the occasion.  With 3 devices that can take pictures and 2 that can capture videos, I’m having a hard time keeping track of everything.  What I really need is a simple and cost effective solution for organizing, editing, sharing, and archiving all my photos and videos.

In this blog, I’m kicking off my efforts (a personal project) to define and implement a single system for managing my digital library, one that I hope will make my life easier.    As with any IT like project, before embarking on the design, it’s important to understand the requirements.  It this case, it’s a matter of articulating my own needs upfront, so I can be sure that I’m successful and happy with the outcome.  I anticipate that each key requirement will require additional analysis (topics for future blogs) before I can fully define and settle on the priorities (must-haves and nice-to-haves) for this system.  For now, I just want to capture the high level requirements.

I need a system that can grow (scalable) with my needs.  Although I don’t foresee buying any new devices in the near-term, it’s important that this system can easily accommodate additional data sources.  For example, if my wife gets an iPhone, I will need a way to easily import and manage all her photos and videos as well.  As technology is constantly evolving, I will need a digital library solution that can withstand the test of time.  I anticipate there will be new medias (e.g. Blue-ray) or social platforms where I would like to publish or store my pictures.  It would be great if the system does not lock me in to a particular social platform or external media type.

I enjoy taking pictures and videos, and I have seen my digital library
grow exponentially in recent years.  However, I prefer not to invest the equivalent increment in time to manage my digital library.  I need a system that will make it easy to organize and edit my photos and videos.  I’m not a professional, so I do not need a fancy editing tool.  Nor do I want to spend a lot of time on editorial tasks.  Generally, I’m quite content with the “I’m Feeling Lucky” touch-ups provided in tools like Picasa.  While I have typically organized my photos and videos by dates or events, I would like to evaluate and assess the benefits of organizing by other means such as geo tags or facial recognition.

One of the great joy of taking pictures and videos is sharing them with my family and friends.  Currently, I share my pictures with my friends through social media Web sites such as FaceBook.  I also keep my photos from the past year online in my Picasa Web album.  While I have uploaded a couple video clips on YouTube,  I have largely deferred the editing  of my HD videos from the past year.  That will change, as I’m motivated by this project.  For my family (who are less technology savvy), I need this system to also facilitate with the creation of slide shows and home movies for re-play on the home theater or distribution via DVDs.   Occasionally, I do printouts as well.

I currently have my pictures and videos scattered across my Mac and PC, with back-ups on an external hard drive, CDs and DVDs.  One of the key driver for doing this project is my constant fear that one day my PC or Mac will crap out, or that my external hard drive will fail, or that the CDs where I back up my picture are no longer readable by new hardware.  What I need is a fault tolerant solution for backing up and preserving my digital library.  Since my PC is dated and I work largely on my Mac now, I would like to build my digital library around the software and services available on the Mac.  This means I will need a way to migrate and import the pictures and videos from my PC.

Well, I think this is a pretty good start on the requirements for building a system for managing my digital library.  I have identified my needs for organizing, editing, sharing, and archiving all my photos and videos.  Now, I just need a solution.  Any suggestions?